Posts Tagged ‘history

05
Sep
10

Story 031: The Highlanders

Jamie (right) captures the Doctor and Polly

After a summer hiatus (at this rate, I’ll never make it through all 26 classic seasons), I picked up the Doctor where I left off. Patrick Troughton’s second story. I was rather ambivalent about Troughton’s Doctor after The Power of the Daleks, and this story didn’t do too much to make me like him more. In fact, I found his somewhat childish nature to be irritating. Perhaps I just haven’t gotten in tune with his interpretation of the role. And not being able to actually see Troughton in action (nothing but reproductions so far) probably hasn’t helped.

The travelers arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the end of the Battle of Culloden. We see a difference in this Doctor from William Hartnell right away as he apparently recognizes their location and is ready to go. Ben, on the other hand, is convinced that they are in England and wants to find out what the deal is. This harkens back to the time that Ian was convinced the France during the Reign of Terror was home and went off in search of a pub to buy the Doctor a beer. Instead, they end up being taken prisoner first by a group of rebels and then by the British army.

Among the group of highlanders that befriend our heroes is Jamie McCrimmon. He seems like a decent enough fellow, perhaps a bit like Ben. He was certainly introduced in a manner similar to Ben in that he was a major player in the adventure. At the end of the Story he ends up agreeing to travel with the Doctor, although he doesn’t know quite what’s going on. At this point, I have a comment on Ben. I was a Ben fan. I liked his chutzpah. But he almost seemed out of control in this story, acting foolish. Tearing up his contract, refusing to go with the other prisoners, insisting the army had no right to arrest him. It is this bit of recklessness that made him appealing to me, but he just made the situation worse.

At any rate, the Doctor, pretending to be German, Ben, Jamie, and the Laird (a Scottish Lord, I’m assuming?) are taken prisoner by Grey and Trask, illegally being sold into slavery. Polly and her friend Kirsty, though, elude capture. They hide out in a pit and use their feminine wiles to blackmail Ffinch, and army officer, into helping them. He helps them to reunite with the Doctor. Meanwhile, Ben is busy ripping up his slavery contract and being tossed overboard of the Annabelle slave ship. He manages to get loose of his ties in the water and swim to short where, luckily, the Doctor is conveniently waiting. The plan they come up with is fine: the girls give weapons to the prisoners while the Doctor distracts them. After a battle, Trask ends up in the drink, and the rebels sail the ship away to France. Jamie, however, is left behind as he helps the travelers to locate the TARDIS. After avoiding capture with the help of Ffinch (still feeling blackmailed, I suppose), the TARDIS is found. Jamie isn’t sure where he’s going to go, so Polly and Ben suggest he accompany them. He does, although he seems nervous about it.

I’m told by the Wikipedia that this is the last historical story for many years, owing to Patrick Troughton’s desire to differentiate his Doctor from that of William Hartnell. I’m a little sad to see the historicals go, I rather like them. Having said that, I was kind of bored by this story. For almost half of the story, each traveler was in a different location. This made interaction between them a bit sparse and, as is typical, the secondary cast weren’t much to write home about. Trask was like a cartoon pirate, and Ffinch was a wimp. Jamie seems alright, but was not really developed. I think that Polly’s part of the story was the most intriguing, with her cliffhanger in the pit and the blackmail of Ffinch. And then, when the plot to rescue the rebels was hatched I was impressed by her (and Kirsty’s) insistence upon being a major player in the events. Polly really took charge of her role in this adventure, while the Doctor was rather irritating and Ben was foolish. She was almost Barbaraesque, but much less old. Speaking of Barbara, I’m starting to appreciate her more.

Overall, the story was ho-hum. Much of the energy that was driving the show in Season 3 seems to have been lost somewhere. Or been redirected somehow. The next story has an existing episode, so seeing Troughton and Jamie in action may help enliven it some. I hope so, because I kept having to rewind after dozing off while watching this one.

11
May
10

Story 028: The Smugglers

The Smugglers was so boring. I kept falling asleep and didn’t even want to finish it. The plot structure seemed to be something out of season 1 or 2, although the violence of season 3 was still evident. And it featured a hunt for some booty.

The Wikipedia tells me that the story was filmed with Season 3, but intended to hold over until Season 4. It was a historical story, probably supposed to contrast with the futuristic, yet present-tense war machines. It is William Hartnell’s next-to-last story, and his last complete story. He played it well and Ben and Polly weren’t too bad. I guess there was nothing wrong with the story…it just wasn’t interesting.

Never Trust a Pirate!

The travelers arrive on the beach of Cornwall. Ben and Polly are skeptical that they have traveled through time, as one might expect. Ben is worried (and whining) about making it back to his Navy ship for deployment. They wander the cliffs and come to a church. The churchwarden (I’m guessing that’s some sort of caretaker?) gets some medical attention from the Doctor and tells him a cryptic secret: Ringwood, Smallbeer, and Gurney. The travelers leave and soe pirates, led by Pike and his crony Cherub, show up demanding to know the location of the booty (booty is a much more piratey word than treasure….). When the warden doesn’t tell them, they kill him and go in search of the travelers.

This is where the season 1 and 2 structure comes in….Ben and Polly are arrested and held in one place while the Doctor is captured by Pike and held in another. It made me think of The Daleks or the story where Barbara and Susan were in jail (I forget the exact story). I’m sure that this motif continues to appear regularly, but there was no particularly interesting twist to this. It just seemed a bland step backward from Season 3.

Pike begins working with the greedy Squire to try to find out the location of the Booty. Cherub refers to the Doctor as Sawbones a lot, Pike betrays the squire, wounding him, and also betrays Cherub, killing him. It just goes to show that you can’t trust a pirate. And I won’t get into the incredibly racist portrayal of Jamaica, a black pirate. I’ll just let the image say it all:

Dis Booty sho am good, massah!

Some army types show up, there’s a great sword battle that I couldn’t see because all episodes of this story are missing. They find the Booty, but the army types kill Pike. I’m not sure what happens to the Booty because the travelers sneak off to the TARDIS and make a break for it.

Ben and Polly, in their first official story as companions, weren’t too shabby. Ben showed some guts, which I expected since that’s how he was set up in his previous story. And, besides, we can’t exactly portray a member of the Royal Navy as a wimp, can we? I feel like I got a decent feel for their characters. Polly is strong, but definitely a background-lurker. Ben likes to take charge and is quick to fight. I could see almost an Ian and Barbara relationship with the doctor developing…but since the Doctor will soon no longer be the same Doctor, I’m guessing that we won’t really see it develop that way.

In short, this story wasn’t terrible. I just didn’t like it. Maybe I just don’t like pirates. Or maybe I don’t find hidden Booty a very good plot device. I don’t know. The Wikipedia informs me that this was the least watched story for twenty years, averaging around 4.6 million viewers. And I think that it is still the second-least watched story of all time. Worse than The Gunfighters! So it can’t just be me. And as a Season Premier? It should have top ratings. Lame. I’m looking forward the the Doctor’s switch over in the next story, though. It’s GOT to pick up for that, right?

Booty count: 8

21
Mar
10

Story 025: The Gunfighters

The Doctor meets The Law

I did not know until after watching The Gunfighters that this story is supposedly one of the worst of all time. Apparently, it had a rather small viewing audience and some reviewer from back in the day called it a terrible story. The evaluation stuck. Had I known this before watching, I probably would have watched it differently. As it went, though, I don’t think the story was too bad. It’s not particularly good, but it’s entertaining and does not deserve the awful reputation it has been given.

The travelers arrive in 1881 Tombstone, Arizona, home of the most famous gunfight of all time. The Doctor has a toothache and walks into the shop of dentist Doc Holliday. Holliday actually was a dentist, although I don’t know if he ever had an office in Tombstone. Many Doc/Doctor gags ensue and are occasionally funny. More funny is the Doctor himself. Hartnell, throughout the story, plays a very subtle comedian, repeatedly referring to Wyatt Earp as Mr. Werp and introducing himself as Dr. Caligari (“Doctor who?” “Ah, yes, quite right.”).¬† Steven and Dodo manage to find some ridiculous early-Hollywood-style Western costumes in the TARDIS closet and take on the role of traveling musicians.

Dodo Oakley

It turns out that Holliday is being hunted by the Clanton brothers for killing another brother. He is good friends with Earp and Bat Masterson, the law in town. Of course, Wyatt Earp was not sheriff of Tombstone and Bat Masterson was not around when the gunfight at the OK Corral took place. I found it interesting that they chose to place Bat Masterson into the story at all, I wonder if maybe he was a famous cowboy in 1960s England, perhaps the television show Bat Masterson from the early sixties was popular there….

The Clantons take Steven and Dodo hostage after they confuse the Doctor for Doc. Holliday is a slimy bastard, giving the Doctor his gun. Why the Doctor didn’t realize he was being set up, I’m not sure, but he refers to Holliday as his friend throughout the story. Steven is eventually taken hostage by the Clantons and their hired gun, Johnny Ringo (who also played no role in the actual gunfight). In the meantime, Dodo leaves town with Holliday and his girlfriend Kate. She also seems to be quite taken with Holliday, acting as his friend much like the Doctor. I think this relationship was set up because Holliday, despite being slimy, was a pleasant man and was a good comic foil.

Steven Mix

In the end, Steven makes it back, Holliday returns with Dodo (whoforces him at gunpoint and seems quite proud  of herself. She gives a little jig and waves her hand when they arrive back in Tombstone. It was actually somewhat endearing.

In a jail break, the Clantons shoot Werp’s younger brother Warren. Werp and his newly-arrived other brother Virgil (who actually was the marshal in Tombstone) want revenge, challenging the Clantons to a showdown at the OK Corral at dawn. It ends with the Clantons dead, and the travelers are able to slip away and escape in the TARDIS.

Doc the Dentist

I’ve already the mentioned the humor as a high point of this story. Adding to the humor was the atrocious fake American accents. It was difficult to decide if this was a real attempt at making a Western or complete parody of the genre. I’m leaning toward parody because if that’s the case, it was played brilliantly. Werp and Masterson played it straight while Holliday did not. And the Clantons were pretty typical Western villains. Despite the horrible accents, the Clantons and Werp/Masterson actually put on performances that I would classify as pretty typical of 50s/60s American TV westerns like Gunsmoke or The Rifleman. Slightly more absurd and over-the-top than the later Westerns, as would be expected. So, the mix of comedy and accurate copy made for a well-constructed parody.

Now, for the low point. In fact, it was so low that I almost wanted to stop watching. I’m glad I had headphones so someone else on the train didn’t smash my computer. I’m sure anyone familiar with story already knows what’s coming: The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon. It was funny when Steven sang it with Dodo playing a ragtime piano. All that was missing from the scene was for the Clantons to shoot the floor and tell Steven to dance. But, the slow, dying noises of the lady that sang it about 40 times per episode were enough to drive me insane. It was enough to drop the story from enjoyable to merely entertaining. It could definitely be a reason for the story’s historically low ratings. But it’s not bad enough to make The Gunfighters the worst story ever (The Chase and Edge of Destruction are both worse, and I’m not even through the Hartnell years). Just the song was incredibly painful.

The Werps

Lastly, the focus on the Doctor’s distaste for violence continued a theme that has been going on for a few stories. In this one, he is practically afraid of handling a gun and is distinctly against the gunfight, even though he had been deputized by Werp. Yet, the humans cannot help bu be violent. They can’t stop themselves from killing one another, as even this lighthearted story ends with dead bodies. Violence has definitely been a theme throughout Season 3 and I’m starting to wonder how the Doctor’s attitude toward violence continues as we move through different Doctors starting not too long from now.

28
Feb
10

Story 022: The Massacre (of St. Bartholomew’s Eve)

The Winter of 1965-66 was a depressing time to be a Doctor Who companion. Fresh off the death and destruction of the Daleks’ Master Plan, The Massacre (sometimes called The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve) returns us to France for the first time since the Season 1 finale just in time for the slaughter of thousands of Protestants. It’s pretty typical Who fare until the final episode when the Doctor figures out exactly what’s about to happen (and even then it doesn’t stray too far).

Dressed to Kill!

Likely not yet recovered from events on Kembel, the Doctor and Steven land in 16th century Paris, with the TARDIS conveniently hidden behind a wall in an alley. They change into some period clothing, although I was disappointed that the Doctor didn’t wear his sweet hat from Reign of Terror. I also noticed later when we saw a close-up of the Doctor’s walking stick that he is no longer carrying the one given to him by The Kahn. I wonder happened to that one…

The Doctor is extremely excited to go and meet an apothecary in the city somewhere and leaves Steven on his own. Other than his conversation with the apothecary we don’t see the Doctor again until the second half of the final episode. I would say he was on vacation, but we do see Hartnell acting as the Abbott. At any rate, this story’s focus is on Steven’s quest to find the Doctor. Due to Hartnell’s double role, there is some suspense over the Abbott’s identity, which is really the most interesting part of the time in France. Of course, the Doctor is not the Abbott, just a doppleganger.

Steven befriends Nicholas and Gaston, two Huguenots (French Protestants) during a bitter feud with the Catholic monarchy. Gaston is employed by Prince Henri, just married to the Catholic Princess Marguerite. The story’s plot revolves around the mysterious identity/assassination of the Sea Beggar and the tension between the opposed religious camps. The Sea Beggar turns out to be the Admiral, the top Protestant in the government. The Abbot has arranged his assassination. These characters are predictably forgettable. In fact, a couple of days went by between watching the second and third episode and I had some trouble telling them apart.

In the meantime, Steven has come under the suspicion of his new friends. When the Doctor does not return they being to think he may be working as a spy for the Catholics. A trip to the Apothecary’s does not pan out and matters are not helped when Anne Chaplet, the Abbott’s servant girl, arrives. Steven and Anne eventually flee, visit the Abbott and learn of the assassination plot.. They attempt to warn Gaston, but have to flee again, going into hiding at the Apothecary’s.

Meanwhile, the assassination fails and the Abbott is blamed and killed. Steven, still thinking that the Abbott is the Doctor visits the body, but is chased back to the Apothecary. Reunited with Anne he begins to despair. Fearing the Doctor is dead and with no way to get into the TARDIS he’s not sure what to do next. At this point the Doctor appears. There is no explanation of where he was. If he wasn’t the Abbott, what was he up to? This is a pretty major plot point that isn’t explained. It bothered me a bit, but more on a sidenote humorous wtf? way than in any negative way.

At any rate, when Anne tells him the date and the year he realizes that the Protestants are about to be slaughtered and says that he and Steven must leave immediately. He tells Anne to go to her Aunt’s house. After a tense sprint, Steven and the Doctor get out just in time.

This is one of the increasingly rare educational episodes. And I learned something! I’ve seen references to the Huguenots often but have never bothered to find out exactly who they were. Now I know! French Protestant that were slaughtered in the 16th century by the Catholic monarchy, mostly led by Catherine de Medici, the ruthless Queen. I feel smarter for having watched Doctor Who, and not just because I watched Doctor Who.

This is the point at which the story departs from the track a bit. After learning the fate of his friends Nicholas, Gaston and Anne, Steven insists that he is done with Doctor whom he feels could have saved Anne. The TARDIS lands in 20th century London and Steven leaves. In a very touching monologue, the Doctor laments the loss of yet another friend. Hartnell plays this moment perfectly. We really get a sense of how truly lonely he is, saying that they just don’t understand and regrets that they are always in such a hurry to get home. He even briefly reminisces about Susan, whom he hasn’t mentioned in a long time. When Dodo (short for Dorthea), a young girl looking for a telephone, bursts in he sadly tells her to leave because he has no telephone. I have to admit that I really felt for the Doctor during these scenes. His humanity shows through in a way that it doesn’t do very often. In fact, I don’t think we’ve seen this side of him since Susan’s departure. It was a touching moment that was highlighted even more in the next scene.

Steven returns and tells the Doctor they have to leave before the police arrive. Dodo, still in the TARDIS, seems happy to go, claiming she has no family. Her last name is Chaplet and Steven wonders if maybe she is descended from Anne who may have somehow survived. The Doctor notices that she is very similar in appearance to Susan and sounds genuinely happy to have regained friends. Those that travel with him are his family and now Dodo, previously without family has a new one.I really got the sense, for the first time, that the travelers are to be understood as a family. This has been hinted at before, with the Doctor’s reluctance to send Ian and Barbara home and his relationship with Vicki. But in these scenes it’s really made explicit.

For the most part the story is rather ho-hum. As I mentioned, it’s typical Who fare. The closing scenes in London, however, really provide the Doctor with an added depth of character and act as decent introduction to Dodo, our new companion. I truly did believe that Steven was leaving and was pretty surprised by it. I thought maybe they would end the story with the Doctor completely alone. It would have been quite the ending, but the reunion made it better.

07
Feb
10

Story 020: The Myth Makers

This story has some good stuff going for it, but I wasn’t ready for a character departure! The story had a good pace at 4 episodes. It was lacking a bit in action and the story was simple, but like Galaxy 4, clever. The integration (and changing) of a few different myths and legends really helped the story, I think. It added a bit of smirkiness like The Romans.

Speaking of smirkiness, The Myth Makers is a truly funny story. Not in the slapstick style of The Romans, but in the well-written witty way. I found myself giggling out loud a few times, while trying not to wake my wife. The changes to Homer’s story were great. Most of the characters lose their heroic natures, which I found refreshing. I was a fan of the changes to Paris. Mostly because I hate Orlando Bloom, so anything that makes his character look like a moron is good in my book. His cowardly, nervous, please-everyone personality was perfect. The dialogue was good, full of one-liners. And the Doctor was great, at his best, both grumpy and funny. Especially when he didn’t want to try out his own catapult-flying-machine and so came up with “Plan B” and then feared for his life while in the horse.

Zeus arrives

The TARDIS appears on the plains of Troy smack in the middle of the battle between Hector and Achilles. Now one would think there would be people all over. But, no. The scene for their battle shifted to some secluded part of the plain and they apparently encountered one another by accident. Additionally, Achilles does not appear to be the fearful warrior of legend. Instead, he’s kind of wimpy and Odysseus is skeptical of his ability to defeat a warrior of Hector’s ability. In fact, Achilles probably would have lost the battle had the Doctor not appeared shortly after Hector mocked Zeus.

Having won a great battle, Achilles believes that the Doctor, having appeared from nowhere out of his strange blue temple, is Zeus himself. Foolishly, though not surprisingly, the Doctor agrees that he is Zeus and reluctantly follows Achilles back to the Greek camp. Shortly thereafter, Steven, who cannot seem to do anything the Doctor tells him, is captured and also brought to camp. He and the Doctor are asked to prove that they are gods…and, of course, they cannot. The Doctor indicates a number of times that he must get back inside the TARDIS. For once, he seems to be uninterested in meddling, he just wants to get away. This is probably the most sensible the Doctor has ever been. Too bad the Greeks won’t allow it.

The Trojans take the TARDIS into the city, with Vicki still inside. They are about to set fire to it as a sacrifice, when Vicki emerges, claiming to be from the future. Now, why did she leave the TARDIS? My guess is that it cannot be burnt. It’s not actually made of wood, is it? I mean we’ve seen it fall off of cliffs and such. I would think they would light it on fire, it wouldn’t burn, and they’d keep it in the square as a monument. Vicki could have sat tight, at least until the cover of night. Instead, she comes out and King Priam, despite the protests of his daughter, takes Vicki in, giving her a more appropriate Trojan name: Cressida. Of course, Cressida is the Trojan that defected to the Greeks and then fell in love with Troilus, Priam’s youngest son. Conveniently, Troilus is right there and sure enough, he and Vicki fall in love.

The Trojan Horse

Like it was his idea to burn Rome, the Doctor comes up with the brilliant idea to build a gigantic wooden horse. There’s a great shot of his blueprints for the horse that says “Plan B: Trojan Horse.” I thought that was humorous. Anyway, the Doctor is hiding in there with all of the soldiers. At this point I wanted to punch the Doctor right in the face. He keeps wanting to wuss out. He keeps talking, risking their discovery. He even wants to jump out after the horse in Troy. What the heck was his problem?I will say that the horse was pretty impressive looking. There was a small bit of surviving footage of the horse. It didn’t appear to be show footage, but like it was filmed off screen. Like someone was really proud of the horse they had built. I’m glad that some actual footage of the horse survives, because I was really curious to see it.

Vicki, by Steven’s suggestion, convinces Troilus to leave the city. Outside the city he meets Achilles, and it is he, not Paris, who is given credit for killing Achilles. A nice revision, and way to include the hero’s death, I thought. After a slave helps the Doctor get an injured Steven into the TARDIS, the ship disappears, presumably with everyone on board. But as Troilus stands on the plain cursing Cressida for doublecrossing him, she walks toward him, having escaped the city. I was shocked. How was Vicki still there? Did the TARDIS come back? No, she never entered it. And she is leaving the show. Vicki was my favorite companion so far. I feel that there was more to do with her character and such a quick departure was unfortunate. No goodbyes were said at all, something that I imagine is going to become common places with last minute escapes and such. Like Susan, Vicki lasted just over a season. Also like Susan, she left because she was in love with a boy. Can’t a woman in the Dr. Who universe leave to be on her own rather than to identify herself as the love of some man’s life?

Vicki’s apparent replacement, Katarina, was given hardly an introduction in this series. In fact, she barely speaks until the TARDIS is left and she tells the Doctor that she thinks she’s dead. Wonderful. I imagine it would be difficult to explain to someone from prehistory about time and space travel, let alone one who thinks she’s passed on. And I still don’t feel as if we know Steven very well. He was good in the Time Meddler, but Galaxy 4 wasn’t written for him. So, we now need to get to know another new companion before we’ve gotten to know him. I can see how this might be very challenging for the writers, I’ll be interested to see how they handle it. Especially with the epic Dalek’s Master Plan coming up.

Overall, the story was good. It was consistent and well-paced. Like I said, it was funny. Vicki’s surprising off-screen goodbye was a disappointment, but also like I said, I didn’t want to see her go. It was probably the best story of the season so far, though it’s only the third, so that doesn’t say much.

The reconstruction I saw was not very good, but I saw on a website today that there is a newer, better, version that has been made recently. I probably won’t watch the new reconstruction, but it’s good to know they made a better one. The Dalek’s Master Plan is next and it’s huge, hopefully I can get to it soon. And hopefully Katarina doesn’t suck, because I really liked Vicki.

15
Jan
10

Story 017: The Time Meddler

Now this is more like it. A historical/educational story meets a science fiction story with great intrigue. The Time Meddler was a great story to end the season with. And at 4 episodes, it was just the right length. It gave us a proper introduction to Steven, some more “goodbye” to Ian and Barbara, we met someone else from the Doctor’s planet, and featured what I felt were good performances all the way around, especially from Vicki, with maybe the exception of the bumbling Vikings. Jules was right in his comments, this one was good.

A space helmet for a cow?

The TARDIS lands in Northumbria in 1066 days before the Viking invasion. Steven, refusing to admit that he has indeed been travelling through time and relative dimensions in space, seems like a great companion and complement to both the Doctor and Vicki. I like him much more than I ever liked Ian, although I suppose one story isn’t quite long enough to form a firm opinion of him. He is skeptical, but nonethless adventurous. He is very anxious to explore the modern-ish items that they find in the monastery. So much so that Vicki has to hold him back. He seems smart but not annoying, enthusiastic but not ridiculous, and skeptical and grumpy enough to keep the Doctor from getting out of control. He also seems to have beeter chemistry with Vicki. I wonder if that’s why we saw so much of Vicki and the Doctor together separate from Ian and Barbara….maybe she just didn’t mesh with them very well.

At any rate, the Doctor notes sadly at the beginning that he misses Ian and Barbara, even noting his loss of Susan. Vicki comforts him. It’s the kind of scene we should have had at the end of The Chase.

The Monk

We meet a monk who is looking suspiciously at the TARDIS, and we soon learn that he is the only monk living at a recently re-opened monastery near by. He’s the only one living there because he’s…..wait for it…..not actually a monk! He has things like phonographs and other more modern conveniences, which is all very intriguing. It turns out that he is also from the Doctor’s planet and he travels around (he can control his TARDIS) changing the past. His goal for this trip was to destroy the Viking fleet so that William the Conqueror could better be held at bay by Harold’s army. I suppose his intentions were noble enough, but as the Doctor told Barbara repeatedly, meddling with time can be disastrous. Even Vicki and Steven, both Earthlings, discuss the implications of changing time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love time paradoxes and to see a potential paradox discussed in practical terms was good.

Of course, there are some instances of being taken prisoner and some escapes and a couple of battles. They were pretty typical Dr. Who fare. Although it was pretty funny that the Vikings were knocked out for seemingly hours after a blow from what looked like a piece of paneling. And the idea that the Doctor could convince the monk that his stick was a Winchester rifle was also a bit absurd. All that aside, however, getting inside the monk’s TARDIS was great. It was pretty much the same as the regular TARDIS, of course, lthough the Doctor marveled at the monk’s “Mark 4” model. HA! Multiple TARDIS models…..but going along with that is the implication that there are multiple travelers from the Doctor’s planet out there. All traveling around, apparently abiding by some rules, although the monk has chosen to disobey. The Doctor notes that monk’s time is about 50 years later than his own.

Vicki in the Monk's TARDIS

Some Questions: Why are they traveling? How many are out there? Was the planet destroyed so they left? Like Superman? Or when they travel is it like going on vacation? Except for the Doctor, whose TARDIS is broken? Is TARDISing like RVing?

In the end, the Doctor steals some device from the monk’s ship, stranding him in 1066 Northumbria. The device makes the TARDIS small on the inside, presumably the same size inside as outside. This is a brilliant move, although I’m not sure why the Doctor didn’t also steal the device he needs to be able to control the TARDIS or to camouflage his ship. Those would have been smart to steal. Now he’s going to have to continue with the broken TARDIS although, I suppose that’s all part of the adventure.

Tiny TARDIS

The story and season ended with sillhouettes of the three characters over an image of space. It didn’t have the thoughtful voice over of season 1, but the concluding story itself was far more satisfying than Reign of Terror, so the monologue wasn’t necessary. I think they ended with the best story of the season.

17
Nov
09

Story 014: The Crusade

This is another story I’m rather ambivalent toward. Part of that comes from the BBC destruction of two of the episodes. And the audio that exists for episodes 1, 2 and 4 is quite bad. We are lucky to have it. The wikipedia tells me that it wasn’t found until the 1990s, so at least we have it. But that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t really like the story very much.

Richard the Lionheart

The version that I watched opens with an old William Russell, acting as Ian, saying how he and Barbara didn’t tell many others about their time with the Doctor, but he feels he can trust us. This clip is in color and is apparently from a VHS release in the mid 1990s in which Russell tells the story of the missing episodes. He’s hanging out in some giant mansion we are to believe is his house. They must pay science teachers well in England.

After this intro (the rest of Russell’s descriptions weren’t included in the version I watched), we see the TARDIS appear in the forest outside Jaffa, which is apparently near Jerusalem. It is an historical story of the third Crusade and Richard I (the Lionheart).

I feel that it was meant to be educational, but I’m not sure how much education one could get…not that Wikipedia is the best source in the world, but the entry for Richard I does not mention Jaffa or that he tried to trade Joanna for peace. In the story of Dr. Who the city and her marriage are major plot points that in previous historical stories have been fictionalized, but left as semi-accurate nods. Such as Nero burning Rome or The Polo’s dealings with The Kahn.

At any rate, Richard’s forces are ambushed in the forest and The Doctor, Ian and Vicki take an injured man to the king. Barbara had been captured along with another of Richard’s buddies. Ian wants to rescue her, but Richard isn’t a fan.

Eventually, though, Richard sees the light and makes Ian a knight, Sir Ian of Jaffa. A big deal. Sir Ian then travels to see Saladin who is keeping Barbara. Now, a note about ole Barbara in this story. What a trooper. She escapes captivity three times in a four episode story. And she always does it pretty easily. Or at least it seemed that way just watching the still photo reconstructions. A grunt and a run and she was gone. She gets away and is helped by Haroun, a man whose daughter had been captured by El Akir, the Saladin’s goon. But, of course, she is recaptured by El Akir, the villain of the story, she escapes again only to hide in the Harem. This is also known as the room in which El Akir keeps all the hot women.

El Akir - Not as delightfully sinister as he appears

Ian arrives with the ridiculously giggling bandit Ibrahim, who had earlier tried to rob him. The two of them burst in just in time to rescue Barabara from the The Akir who is killed by Haroun. Oh, and Haroun’s daughter was conveniently a member of the Harem and tried to help Barbara escape.

The doctor and Vicki, branded as traders, escape Richard’s court and after Sir Ian convinces some guards that he will excute the traitorous Doctor, the escape into the ship. This is the best part of the episode. In the only known remaining footage of the fourth episode, the TARDIS lights go out and everyone is left in suspended animation. It’s wonderfully creepy and has me excited for the next story. But first, some thoughts on this one.

In short, it just didn’t do it for me. I kept falling asleep and I trouble hearing it. I’ve had this trouble before, but had no subtitles to fall back on. And the reconstructed episodes are a little difficult to follow at times. It just didn’t keep my interest. El Akir wasn’t a very compelling villain (not like Tegana of Marco Polo) and Richard, while well acted, simply didn’t appeal. My favorite character was Haroun. I like the resilience he showed and the dedication to finding his daughter. Not to mention being able to protect his younger daughter both from the soldiers and from the truth of what happened to her sister. I was also a fan of Barbara’s tenacity and escapability. But that was about as far as it went.

To be honest, I’m kind of tired of seeing Ian in fighting mode. I just don’t buy him as a fighter. He’s a bit of a wet blanket in my opinion. He learned to fight in The Aztecs, got some sword play in the Romans and shows off his skills now and then. But, seriously, he was a mild mannered Science teacher. Now he can be a gladiator and a valiant knight? I know knights aren’t all about fighting, but he does his fair share. And it bores me.

I think this story also may have suffered due to The Doctor’s somewhat limited role. He and Vicki were once again left alone together. The Doctor talked his way out of a jam, but this had none of the comedic flair of The Romans. One thing that this time alone with Vicki has shown us, though, is the development of their relationship. It is very tender and endearing. Their interactions are fun to watch as she teases him and he coddles her. The Doctor seems to be building upon the connection he made with Susan just before he left her in Future Earth. It’s as if their relationship continued to grow, but with Vicki instead of his actual granddaughter. It makes Vicki a likable character. She’s silly and sweet and I think much of that has to do with her time with the Doctor.

In the end, this just wasn’t a very good story, in my opinion. Dr. Who really seems to be at its best in actiony sci-fi stories. Unless the historical stories have something special, I think it’s time to consider leaving them behind. And this one just didn’t have anything special.

The Doctor, Vicki, and Joanna (Richard's Sister)




About These Adventures

This blog exists to document my trip through over 30 seasons of the British science fiction television show Dr. Who. Prior to beginning, I had never seen a single episode of Dr. Who and will be learning the show's mythology and experiencing it all for the first time. I began sometime in July of 2009. Hopefully it doesn't take me over 30 years to reach the end.

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